Traffic with a ‘bounce’
As she sat on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, joining artists and representatives of the many companies that would be part of the historic venue’s 2016 summer season, Tina Finkelman Berkett figured she’d quietly enjoy the camaraderie. But when Los Angeles Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda named Berkett and her company, Bodytraffic, from the stage, Berkett found the moment slightly surreal.
This was not a suspense-packed situation. Berkett already knew that Bodytraffic, the dance company she co-founded with Lillian Rose Barbeito in 2007, would take part in the Sept. 8 “L.A. Dances” program. Nonetheless, hearing the event announced publicly made the company’s upcoming Hollywood Bowl debut all the more real and exciting for Berkett.
“You can imagine me moving to Los Angeles and knowing nothing about this city, having my then-boyfriend — now my husband — taking me to the Bowl year after year,” Berkett said. “Observing an extraordinary arts institution like the L.A. Philharmonic, and to feel a part of that family, to hear my name and Bodytraffic announced on that stage, it was really something special to me. I really can’t believe we’re doing what we’re doing.”
By now the Bowl is one of the few local stages that Bodytraffic has not played. From its debut performance in 2009 at Sinai Temple, the much-traveled company has taken the stage at venues in New York, New Mexico and as far away as Vancouver and Israel, with a trip to South Korea planned for the summer. Locally, Bodytraffic has performed at the Music Center Plaza, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Broad Stage, which will be the site of a new work in October. In the fall of 2015, the U.S. Department of State selected Bodytraffic to travel to Israel and Jordan for a residency as part of DanceMotionUSA, honoring the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Having toured extensively both nationally and internationally over the past three years, the company is happy to be home for an extended period of time. The month of May is a designated “creation period” as Bodytraffic prepares new works for its mini SoCal tour to the Hollywood Bowl, the Broad Stage and the Laguna Dance Festival in September at the Laguna Playhouse.
“We had this beautiful reception to start us off at Sinai Temple, then we went off and garnered attention and acclaim all over the world,” Berkett said. “Now we finally feel like this is our moment to show L.A. what we have accomplished and what we can do.”
Dance-hungry Angelenos are invited to watch these acts of creation, and not just when the finished product is up on stage. Bodytraffic board members have sat in on rehearsals conducted either at Loyola Marymount University or at Mimoda Studio on Pico Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue. Interested members of the public can contact Bodytraffic and attend open rehearsals as well, Berkett said.
“There’s so much time that goes into [the] making of dance and so much effort and all the training of the dancers every day of their lives, not just the creation period of that piece,” Berkett said. “I’d like to have more people come in and see and also know our dancers because I really feel what sets our company apart is the camaraderie that exists in what we consider really a family.”
For the L.A. Dances program at the Bowl in September, Bodytraffic will dance to “Bounce” by L.A. composer Adam Schoenberg. Anticipating the birth of his first child, Schoenberg wrote the piece in 2013 as a ballet for children. The L.A. Philharmonic performed the West Coast premiere of “Bounce” in September 2013 at the Hollywood Bowl, making the piece’s inclusion on the L.A. Dances lineup something of a homecoming as well.
Schoenberg, who is Jewish, brought his infant son to that premiere, which he called “one of the greatest musical moments of my life.” He said the piece is not yet a favorite with orchestras, in part because it includes music for saxophone, which requires companies to pay extra to hire a sax player.
“It’s advantageous to perform it with another piece that requires saxophones, like Gershwin,” Schoenberg said. “The music for ‘Bounce’ is so playful, very childlike. Tina and I spoke about its inception as a ballet for children.”
Choreographing the “Bounce” dance is an artist who Berkett said has long been on Bodytraffic’s bucket list of collaborators: Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, former artistic director of Chicago’s Luna Negra Dance Theater. Given the venue’s configuration and the nature of the piece, Berkett expects the eight-dancer piece to be visually dazzling.
“We need something that is going to be grandiose and sweeping and really fill that stage,” Berkett said. “It’s very wide and very shallow, and you’re right in front of the orchestra. We want to have a lot of scenic elements going on to make sure the dance is seen, especially if you’re way back in the audience.”
The L.A. Dances program also includes performances by two other L.A.-based dance companies, Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project and Ate9 Dance Company, founded by Israeli choreographer Danielle Agami. In addition to “Bounce,” the program features Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Helix,” Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and the world premiere of Daniel Wohl’s “Replicate Part 2.”